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2019 Election: Anika Wilson

Anika Wilson, Chair, African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

I am the current chair of the Department African and African Diaspora Studies at UW-Milwaukee. I took my doctorate in Folklore and Folklife Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and specialize in the gender, informal narrative, and spirituality in southern Africa. My book Folklore, Gender, and AIDS in Malawi: No Secret Under the Sun (2013) was awarded the Elli Kongas Maranda Award for feminist scholarship in folklore in 2014. I teach courses in African cultures and societies, religion, and gender relations. My current projects involve the analysis of legends and beliefs related to sacred sites central and southern Africa as they are linked to ideas about spirituality, identity, and ecology in as well as another project examining gendered narratives in divorce court transcripts from Malawi.  I have served on the AFS Cultural Diversity Committee for the last three years and been the co-chair for the last two years.  

 

As folklorists, we are living in interesting times. We find ourselves in a moment in which more and more disciplines are expected to fuse critical, public, and community-engaged elements of our work. We need leadership that is sensitive to these trends and recognizes how folklore (academic, public, activist, etc.) is poised through its deep history of public engagement and critical inquiry to be at the forefront of this movement. The importance of this issue cannot be overstated. Public and governmental support and acknowledgement of the value of the humanities is dismally low. It is incumbent upon us, not just for the survival of our field, but for the value we bring to our communities, to evolve ways to increase our public engagement and serve our communities.

There are, of course, dangers in increased visibility of getting things wrong and harming or alienating communities instead of working alongside. For this reason, it is important for us to increase the diversity, equity, and inclusion in our society, on the board, and in the structures through which we function. As a member of the nominating committee I would make it a priority to enlist talented and fearless folklorists who, while respecting where we come from, are not afraid to help lead us where we need to go to thrive in the future. I have served on several search and screen committees including faculty searches (chair), Letters and Science Dean search (member), Senior Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for UWM (co-chair), and I believe those experiences help prepare me to be a part of the AFS nomination committee.

I believe in being methodical when it comes to searching for nominees to fill positions but also in creativity in considering the questions “What voices need to be included in the discussion and where is talent blooming untapped?” We need all hands on deck to navigate folkloristics into its next form and I would be delighted to be a part of the process as a member of the nominating committee.

 

 

 


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